The Cornucopia Digital Fabricator is a "food printer" that dispenses and combines food ingredients to create a finished product.

Photo courtesy Fluid Interfaces Group, MIT Media Lab

The term "digital gastronomy" conjures up images of the space-age kitchens seen on the Jetsons or in an exhibit at Epcot, but you may be surprised to learn that they are no longer just part of futuristic fairy tales. In fact, thanks to a few talented doctoral candidates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), they're much closer to becoming reality. Imagine creating complicated recipes at the touch of a button or testing every possible ratio of flour and yeast to produce the most delicious loaf of bread.

Cornucopia's Digital Gastronomy is the brainchild of two inspired designers, Marcelo Coelho and Amit Zoran, who manifested the concept into three independent machines: the Digital Fabricator, the Robotic Chef and the Virtuoso Mixer. These devices convert food ingredients into meals without any manpower. Currently, Coelho and Zoran are experimenting with prototypes of the machines, and it will be a while (if ever) before they are available to the public.

The Digital Fabricator is a three-dimensional "food printer" that converts your chosen ingredients into a delicious end product. The Robotic Chef applies an array of cooking techniques to food components that the user selects. And the Virtuoso Mixer enables rapid experimentation by allowing the user to mix varying amounts of ingredients in order to discover their preferred combination.

With the help of these tools, chefs of the future could be so precise and efficient that they'd never need to grab fast food on the go. The right high-tech products could consolidate kitchens into a few choice appliances, and food waste could be a thing of the past. In a time when digital technology makes new leaps each day, food technology could make significant strides, the likes of which haven't been seen for centuries [source: Coelho].

Read on to see if the Digital Fabricator could eliminate the need for your next refrigerator purchase and find out how the Virtuoso Mixer dreams up food combinations not previously conceived.